Monday, 6 February 2017

Rendezvous in Russia

Lauren St John delivers again. If you enjoyed Enid Blyton’s Famous Five or the Nancy Drew mysteries you will enjoy this.  Except it probably wouldn’t displease your parents and teachers as much as Blyton did: it is more 21st century and much better written. 

Laura Marlin – and the book is subtitled “A Laura Marlin mystery” - is a feisty teenager who loves mysteries and detective stories. She is an orphan who used to live in a children’s home.  She now lives with her uncle Calvin, a Chief Inspector of Police. 

She has two great friends - Tariq Ali, who is good with horses, and her three-legged husky, Skye.
Laura, Skye and Tariq get a lot more than they bargained for when they get involved with filming The Aristocratic Thief. They are once again swept into the world of the deadly “Straight As”. 

There is pace and tension a plenty here along with good characterisation. I read it virtually at one sitting. Do give it a go.       


Friday, 3 February 2017

The Secret Baby Room by DD Johnston

D.D. Johnston wrote to my colleague at the University of Salford to ask if he could come and talk to our students.  We had a Masters creative writing workshop that seemed to fit well. I was running it that evening. He had a Power Point presentation – but didn’t trust our technology so he showed it as a series of A4 flash cards. It worked. There were also lots of questions from the students. It made for an inspiring class.  

I bought the book. None of the students did. It is published by a small press so is a little expensive. 

It took me over a year to get round to reading it but when I did I could hardly put it down.  It’s unusual for me not to figure out what is happening long before the end.  This time I did not know until the very last page how everything was going to turn out. Yet the story progression and the resolution remained convincing.
Part of the appeal must be because it is set in Greater Manchester. As there is a tower block and a river involved, I saw in my mind’s eyes an area very near to the university – in fact just a few yards away from where I held the class. However, it isn’t there because there is a golf course, an old people’s home and a St Michael’s Church involved as well. 

This novel has an excellent narrative balance. The characters are totally convincing. They are ordinary folk, too, not white upper middle class. The story moves forward at a pace and we are kept guessing. We are totally gunning for protagonist Claire Wilson. 

I suppose Johnston approached us partly because the story is set in Greater Manchester. The story is based on something that happened to him.  Oh, and he used to work at a Manchester coach station – just like Dan, Claire’s husband. 

Do give it a go.